PATHS field trials

Kate Fernie

The report presenting the results of field trials of the second PATHS prototype and iPAD application is now available.  The report completes a programme of user evaluation that began with the PATHS first prototype.

We invited users to take part in Field Trials of both the PATHS desktop system and an iPAD application.  The evaluation took place a more naturalistic approach than previous evaluations with participants being invited to use the system over a period of a couple of weeks.  Feedback was provided through diaries kept by the participants, in interviews as well as quantitative being captured in an online questionnaires. In addition to presenting the results of the user evaluation, the report also includes technical evaluation of the system, the content processing and enrichment, and the user interface design. 

The report is available here .

It is pleasing to report that, as with previous evaluations of PATHS, the majority of participants had an overall positive response to PATHS, finding it mostly Organised , Creative  and Likeable . The system was also seen as offering novel functionality that could be useful in a number of different user scenarios.  The majority of participants indicated that PATHS supported Finding items related to a topic and Exploring what content is available in a collection and Creating resources from cultural heritage collections. Serendipity/discovering new things and Developing ideas were also well rated.

Word cloud of user feedback on use of PATHS

The majority of users indicated that they would like to see paths created by cultural organisations and curators, with some interest also noted for Lecturers/Teachers and Museum/Gallery educators.

The user feedback has been invaluable to the project both by giving positive responses to system that has been developed and also by suggesting areas where there is room for improvement.  In the field trials users commented on aspects of the presentation and the content, and expressed a desire for additional onscreen Help and support for Communicating with other users.  Since the trials were completed, work on the PATHS iPAD application has been exploring links with Facebook as a means of sharing paths and interesting items with others.

Snapshot of the PATHS iPAD application

The project's technical evaluation of the PATHS system is also included in this report, covering the PATHS system and its architecture , the Paths user interface  and Content processing and enrichment . Technical testing of the different elements of the system specifically sought to identify whether the specified functionality was present and working (as measured against D1.5 Functional Specification for second prototype , 2012); that system performance was robust and reliable and, that the scalability and quality of content enrichment was good. These evaluation activities have enabled us to objectively measure PATHS to assess accuracy, reliability and scalability
 

Finally, results of the Field Trials, allow us to conclude that PATHS is viewed as an application that is best for searching , exploring  and creating resources  by individuals using cultural heritage collections. It allows users to create personalised stories within cultural collections and, if following a path from a cultural organisation, offers meaningful guidance about the interpretation of cultural works. Users are provided with innovative ways to access and utilise the contents of digital collections that enrich their experiences of these resources and facilitates innovative access to which better supports knowledge discovery and exploration.

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